Re: Last legs

  • Markshire PCs:

Sun-Ok was almost to Alec’s house to craft magic bags, contentedly trying to work a blackberry seed from between her teeth with her tongue, when she realized she had left her review of the dream-images unfinished. She hesitated, confident she had rediscovered the Way, so finishing the task was probably unnecessary. But then she thought of the wolves—even though their meat was ill-flavored and their pelts virtually useless to her, after the wolves senselessly attacked her she would never waste their flesh and skins, always recovering them to donate later to the poor. And so she resolved not to waste the dream-images, either, went back to the Grotto for food just in case, and finally returned to her spot above the cemetery.

She nestled comfortably into the little snow burrow she had left. “If I could figure out how to make these cloaks that keep you magically warm,” she thought, “that would be useful. Now, where was I?” She sobered and focused as the image of blood in a river came back to her.

As she mentally sorted through the images she had not yet placed in time, still moving backward, she came to that of a human baby poised to cry. It was long ago, but it was indeed Lord Deng. She considered that for a moment, and decided that it was merely further confirmation that by following what her heart deemed good, she would still be on the Way.

Encouraged, she examined in her mind the few images remaining, chastising herself when she found three pictures that clearly should have been placed more recently in time: Odin, Loki, and Thrym. Then she reconsidered: they were clearly more recent for her, but if they were gods they were ageless. And just as she was about to place the images by themselves out of time, another thought came to her. She had dreamed images not of the deities themselves, but of representations of them—a statue, and paintings she had doubtless seen in those books. She had never seen these gods, of course, but she had never actually seen the vividly dreamed image of her father’s blood washing down a river, either. She quickly reviewed all of the dream-images: none of Elvidnir, the one part of Markshirian religion that she had experienced firsthand.

The conclusion that came to her, happily, confirmed what she had decided before—that Elvidnir was irrelevant to the Way, and that Markshire’s faith, for now at least, was to be observed and not adopted. She also took it to mean that her path between the land’s extremes of Law and Chaos was still the right one for her. And she instantly placed mentally an image of a dusty ancestral shrine right next to those gods—she would dust off that shrine, as best she was able, and do honor to her ancestors even in this far place.

Sun-Ok was still congratulating herself on her perception when she came to the last image, which stumped her: a dream-image of horses pierced by arrows, writhing on a hill. It stumped her not because she could not place it—it was clearly a picture of her people’s battle with the Kingdom’s cavalry long ago. Nor did it bother her that it was a vivid image, constructed wholly from her own imagination based on stories, for she had never seen a drawing or painting of the battle. Indeed, it would have been supremely unwise for an elf-blood to make or keep a representation of that scene, in particular.

What was unclear for Sun-Ok was what that image could possibly say to her about following the Way, now, in Markshire. Of course, the Serpent tradition towards which she was raised leapt to mind, but she was far from the training that path required. Perhaps it merely meant that she should focus on stealth in her rediscovered path, so that she might hide from Vastion, or from the threats posed by Markshire’s ideas of Law and Chaos?

She turned this one image over in her mind for some time, but still could reach no conclusions. So, settled with what she had already decided, she left the questions unanswered. Somehow, though, she was comfortable with that, when before the tumult of questions had left her disconcerted and far from the Way. And so she turned around, mentally, anticipating the last leg of her mental journey, a simple stroll from that image forward in time through dreams on which she had with great effort imposed order.

And it was, in fact, a pleasant enough trip, like reading Blizzard’s journal, the horrible images taking their place with the enjoyable ones in the wholeness of the Way. Until she stumbled, yet again, near the end.

“Baby ice-snakes?” she asked herself. She had only seen adults on her two trips to the one-eye camp—of that she was certain. And no nests, of course, even if the adults were hard to spot in their frosty lair. She was about to move on, thinking it an unimportant and fanciful image, when she thought again. There were no ice-snakes in the Kingdom, as far as she knew, but was it not a quintessentially Markshire serpent that blended almost perfectly in its surroundings? And raised from babies? Was it an image telling her that her Serpent past might have a future here?

She had no answer, but excitedly rushed through the remaining images, finding nothing else. So, keeping Marco’s admonition in mind, she resolved to quietly stay alert in Markshire for the training she could no longer receive, and to study stealth as best she could in this new kingdom of snow.

She stood, contented but stiff, the snow falling from her back. Her sudden appearance out of her little burrow startled one of the wall guards nearby, and she laughed at his reaction, turning once more to bow to the cemetery and the memory of her ancestors. As she strode off, the guard muttered “Uh-yuh. ‘Nother lunatic,” and faced back to the east.